Rental Car Comparison: Which Companies Are Best?

May 30, 2017

best rental car company Long lines. Pushy sales reps. Pricey rental insurance. Dodgy sales tactics. Scratched cars that smell like week-old fast food. The list of things we hate about renting a car goes on and on. And every time we rent a car, we wonder, does it have to be this bad? What is the best rental car company?

When you compare car rental companies, some stand out as offering better customer service, lower rates or just an overall better experience than competitors. We did a little research to find the best car rental company in each of these categories.

The overall best rental car company: Enterprise

Every year, the consumer research firm J.D. Power studies American customer satisfaction with rental car companies. Specifically, they look at what customers say about costs and fees; the pick-up and return process; the rental cars; the shuttle bus/van service; and the reservation process. For three consecutive years, the best rental car company has been Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Enterprise ranks highly across the board in customer service and costs.

The good: “We’ll pick you up,” Enterprise promises — and that’s a nice perk. Compared to other rental car companies, Enterprise offers low underage driving fees ($20 per day). You can also almost always find a location. Enterprise has more than 7,200 locations in more than 30 countries. In some cities, you can even rent an exotic car, like an Aston Martin DB9 or Audi R8 Spyder.

The bad: There are no special discounts for paying in full when you book, Reviews.com notes. And base prices average around $47 per day.

The best cheap rental car company: Budget

“Budget’s prices are typically considered some of the best in the business,”  — about $35 per day. And if you pay up front, you can save up to 35 percent. Dollar and Thrifty usually charge less, but service may not be as good.

The good: The price is right. And if you sign up for Budget’s Fastbreak program, you can speed up the drop-off/pick-up process: “You simply flash your valid license, pick up your keys and escape the long lines,” Budget promises.

The bad: Customer satisfaction with Budget, as measured by J.D. Power, is lower than the industry average.

The best low-hassle rental car company: National

National operates a free loyalty program called the Emerald Club, which eliminates a few of the most annoying things about renting a car: waiting in long lines and haggling over which car you’re supposed to get. Emerald Club members can bypass the rental car counter and choose any car they want from the Emerald Club Aisle. They also can rent larger cars for the midsize rate and avoid paying second-driver fees.

The good: National also ranks highly for customer satisfaction, coming in second in the J.D. Power rankings.

The bad: Unlike Enterprise, National won’t come pick you up. And its prices may be higher than you want.

The best rental car company for sweet rides: Sixt

rental car comparison“Drive first class, pay economy.” That’s the motto of Sixt, a German car-rental company that’s trying to break into the U.S. market by letting customers drive upscale and luxury cars for low rates. For example, we searched weekend rates for cars at the downtown Miami location, and found that we could rent a Mercedes-Benz GLA for just under $110 with taxes and fees, or a cute Buick Cascada convertible for $96 per day.

The good: Sixt gets high marks for customer service, and we love its fun-first approach to renting a car.

The bad: Because Sixt is relatively new in the U.S., it has few locations compared to other rental car companies.

For a better experience next time you rent, read Consumer Reports’ tips for how to save money when renting a car. If you’re renting a car abroad, we can also help you prepare.

And if you’re the kind of person who really likes saving money, why not do a little car insurance comparison shopping on Compare.com? You can compare multiple car insurance companies in just seconds to see who offers the best policy for the lowest price. Try it now!
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